Since we’ve just celebrated our wedding anniversary, I thought I’d put down some observations about marriage that I’ve made over the years. As Paul says, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…” Philippians 3:12 Like the Apostle Paul, we’re still working at this ourselves – and God is still working on us.
“That Lovin’ Feeling” Does Fade at Times
Bill met his wife in University. She was going in for a teacher; he wanted to become a social worker. They decided to get married right away, their plan being to finish their educations one after the other. So Bill took a job to support them while she got her teaching degree and once she had an income from that, he planned to go back to school and get his diploma. In the course of carrying out this plan, they had three children.
They were so happy when she got her diploma and landed a teaching job. Now they were set to carry out phase two; soon they’d have a good income between them. But six months into her new job she fell in love with one of her co-workers, so she divorced Bill and married this other fellow. To top it off, she and her new spouse moved down to Central America – and of course she had custody of Bill’s children.
This left Bill moving back home with his folks, driving a beat up old car and scrimping to manage support payments, finish his education, plus buy tickets to visit his children once a year. (His ex-wife wasn’t all that enthused about sending them up here for vacations.)
When I heard Bill’s story I couldn’t help but ask, “What about commitment?”
“That’s what I wondered, too,” said Bill, sounding just a shade bitter.
Commitment: The Super Glue That Works Wonders
This spring my husband’s cousin Ron died – his obituary says, “Beloved husband of Rose for over 64 years.” One day when we visited him in the hospital Rose made a little quip about this. “Over sixty years and we’ve never once talked divorce. Murder, yes – but never divorce.”
Interesting comment! It derives from a commitment to marriage itself, something that goes beyond the “love” people talk of today. They weren’t always happy with each other, but they worked out their differences because they knew they were in it for life.
Commitment. Many older folks we’ve known had a good handle on it. Their marriage vows involved their personal integrity and they weren’t going to let anything destroy that. Whenever vows and feelings clashed, feelings had to give.
Even when they didn’t have that loving feeling they stayed together because their commitment was more enduring than feelings. They stayed together even if someone more appealing came along because their commitment was stronger than temptation. Faults that couldn’t be changed would be forgiven – or at least endured – because their commitment was more tenacious than faults. It took major, often repeated, violations to make folks break those vows.
Today our society’s ‘feelings-are-what-counts’ mindset tells us “You have a RIGHT to be happy. You MUST follow your dreams.” But dream-followers often leave trails of disaster behind them.
Commitment says “I’ve made this vow and I’m sticking to it no matter what.” When two people have made a total commitment to each other –and to marriage itself– they have a much better hold on living happily ever after.
Not always, though. People can stay together because of their commitment –or because society forbids divorce– but put nothing into the happiness of each other. They make no effort to be pleasant or communicative. Or they have temptations/addictions they can’t/won’t deal with. It’s because of this scenario that divorce “on the grounds of mutual incompatibility” came about.
One elderly man told me that his first marriage was “like hell on earth.” (I’ve seen a few like that myself.) Finally he and his wife got a divorce, then he met and married a widow named Pat. He said “being married to Pat is like heaven on earth.” Would you deny him that happiness?
Good News! There is Someone Who can change “hell on earth” to “happily ever after.” Miracles do happen. If we give Him the chance, God can –and will– change our hearts; He’s able to drain away all that anger and resentment – and replace it with peace, love and patience.
In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we read: “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” When two people have committed themselves to God and His plan for their lives, when His strength and wisdom are entwined with their own, they’ve got what it takes to make 64 years together. Even if they are sometimes furious with each other.
If you’re really in earnest about making your marriage work, I’ll give you one more tip: Throw out the TV. (Ours went out in 1973.) There’s no way a person can fill his mind with tons of bad example and not have some of them sink into his heart. Constant bad examples can blur and eventually corrode the most sincere commitments.